Another Jane Doe

Taillights gleamed from her blue-black eyes, giving her the look of the possessed. Her flat hair hung down past her collarbone in a single sheet, the kind of hair that always looked damp, no matter the weather. She rubbed her nubby thumb against her forefinger as she stood there in the dark, her other hand hidden in her coat pocket, fiddling with a plastic lighter, praying beneath her breath that the spark would accidentally catch and set her ablaze.

A figure moved in the darkness. The man switched off the lights and got out of the car, moving towards her with the delicacy of a river nymph. This paradox disgusted her as much as it fascinated her, how a man with so much hatred in his blood managed to look like a dancing fairy in the moonlight. The girl, whose name does not matter, and who never in her life knew the feel of flesh against her skin without collecting silvery souvenirs from the encounter, stepped out from the shelter of the overpass and scanned the sky, half-heartedly hoping to catch a glimpse of stars managing to defy the overpowering city lights.

The sky that met her eyes was a navy duvet, free of stitches. She turned back to the man and tried to remember everything. The rumbling of the overpass as the occasional car went for a midnight ride, the feel of the wind against her ears, the slight dampness in the air that pressed against her skin like cloth. Overturned trash cans and abandoned cars breeding rust watched her and the man as they stood, feet apart, in the abandoned lot. She took a step back, and swept her right hand up and down the concrete pillar, like a window-washer, scratching her fake nails and turning the sparkling pink tips white. If anyone ever came looking for her, she wanted the police, at least, to know that she was here. Not that anyone would step forward to claim her fingerprints, never mind volunteer and identify her body. No matter. Today was her fourteenth birthday, and this was her present to herself: hope. She didn’t want to leave this world with the designation of Jane Doe as her sole legacy. The child took out her lighter and struck it. The slender flame made the man’s eyes look beautiful in the darkness, like molten rock.

“Baby,” he breathed, caressing her cheek with his graying hand. The wind cut holes in his voice so his words became raspy wisps. His voice reminded her of damaged hair and sunburnt skin, of the songs her mother used to sing to her as she fell asleep. His words tasted like lemonade with too much sugar. She cast her arms around him and drew him closer. He smelled normal, like someone’s father.

They never found her body. No one remembered her name. The woman who gave birth to her sometimes recalled memories of a girl with dark pretty eyes that resembled her own. On days when those dark eyes haunted her, the woman consoled herself with a glass of vodka and the knowledge that she no longer had a daughter. The state took her baby. Said they put her in a home with nice folks, a warm bed, three meals a day. Something the woman, herself, had never known.

On those nights, the vodka tasted like something resembling warmth.